The Babylon Bee, a satirical website with over 3 million social media followers, suggested Chick-fil-A would make a good work to get the Americans out of Afghanistan and reported that a frustrated Joe Biden hung a “Trump wonSign on the side of the White House.
They were jokes, of course. But The Babylon Bee CEO finds nothing amusing about what he says is the ongoing censorship of the company’s Facebook page.
In an email sent to newsletter subscribers last week, Seth Dillon said Facebook is removing content from The Babylon Bee and the company has experienced a “drastic and steady decline in reach and engagement” at over the past year, despite an increase in the number of followers.
“Before, 80% of our site traffic came from Facebook. Now it is only 30%. Babylon Bee posts posted to Facebook were going viral, generating hundreds of thousands of shares. But that doesn’t happen anymore. Facebook doesn’t allow it, ”Dillon wrote.
As proof, Dillon shared a screenshot of what he said was a recent Facebook post, titled “Least Male Society in Human History Decides Masculinity is a Growing Threat.” The screenshot showed that the post had reached 11 people and had a ‘like’, despite the page having over a million subscribers.
“We would have reached more people if we had printed the article and published it on a single telephone poll in a small town,” Dillon wrote.
He did, however, follow through on a request for paid subscriptions, leaving the company open to accusations that it is using alleged censorship as a means of raising money, as it has been. noted from former President Donald Trump and other political leaders who claim social media companies unfairly target conservatives.
But Dillon said in an interview that such calls are necessary and important. “We need to be financially independent from Big Tech,” he said. “We don’t create false worries so that we can fundraise. We see these companies as serious threats to the business, so we are making honest appeals to our readers to support us.
He also said The Babylon Bee deserves a place on social media platforms called the Modern Public Square.
A Facebook spokesperson said there are currently no restrictions on The Babylon Bee’s page, but Facebook’s independent watchdog said earlier this year the company needs a better way. to treat satire. Here’s why.
“Fake news you can trust”
On Twitter and Facebook, The Babylon Bee says it offers “fake news you can trust” and the website is often described as a center-right Christian version of another satirical media company, Onion.
The two companies traffic in comedy, producing satirical views on the news of the day. Recent headlines from The Onion include “Disappointed Taliban Realizes Taking Over Afghanistan Is More Fun Than Running It” and “Biden Responds To Request For Help By Deporting Haitian Doctor”.
The Babylon Bee, however, was founded by Christian comedian Adam Ford, who once said Christianity today that the church needs to laugh. A Washington Post writer described the website as The Onion for the Stakes. But two years after launching The Babylon Bee, Ford sold the site to Dillon, in part because of what Ford called “The large-scale evils of Facebook and Google”. Ford said using Facebook was like getting a business loan from a mafia loan shark, saying some people have to change or hide their worldview to stay on the platform.
“I’ve come to a place where I no longer feel morally okay with being part of the Facebook and Google machine, and because of their surveillance-capitalism business models, just being on their platforms makes me a paying customer, ”Ford wrote in 2018..
In his letter to newsletter subscribers last week, Dillon also expressed frustration at what he called “politically motivated discrimination” which he said affects The Babylon Bee’s reach on Facebook.
The post he quoted mocked the attacks on masculinity, claiming that masculinity was the cause of “violence, war, intimidation, the defeat of the Nazis, the extraction of society from a wilderness and the landing of men on the moon “. The article was originally published in 2019 and was then shared over 355,000 times on Facebook. But when the company reposted it last week, it was only visible to directors, not the public, Dillon told Deseret News. He said this was the latest event of a confusing model that has seen The Babylon Bee’s user engagement on Facebook jump from nearly 10 million each month to 1 million, despite a larger audience.
There was a substantial drop around the election when Facebook reportedly made changes to increase the visibility of new legacy organizations. “Our concern is that we’re not news, so are they actually giving us a shoddy score?” It wouldn’t seem fair, because we’re not really a source of information, ”Dillon said. But, he added, “We’re left with our best guess as to what’s going on, because they won’t tell us.”
He says The Babylon Bee “shamelessly” asks readers to pay for subscriptions so the company, which is based in Jupiter, Fla., And employs about two dozen people across the United States, is not entirely dependent on social media platforms known collectively as Big Technology.
CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter have testified before Congress in an antitrust investigation and their businesses are under fire from Tory lawmakers, including Republican Senator from Utah Mike Lee, who say they are deliberately cracking down conservative views.
Tech companies deny censorship, saying posts are removed or restricted because they contain false information. But satirical posts should be subject to a different standard, according to Facebook’s Supervisory Board, an independent governing body formed by the company and empowered to resolve disputes.
An exemption from satire?
Earlier this year, the Supervisory Board reversed Facebook’s decision to remove a meme it said violated the company’s community standards. “We don’t allow hate speech on Facebook, even in the context of satire, because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion, and in some cases, can promote real-world violence,” Facebook noted at the time.
Upon review, the board ordered the post to be reinstated and recommended that the company adopt procedures “to properly moderate satirical content while taking into account the relevant context.” The board said there should be a “satire exemption” in its community standards.
This decision was released in May; the following month, Facebook announced that it would not automatically flag satire as disinformation.
For now, the company appears to be watching The Babylon Bee’s posts related to COVID-19. Below articles on the pandemic and vaccinations, Facebook regularly inserts a note directing readers to its COVID-19 information page.
A Facebook representative said there were no restrictions on the Babylon Bee page, although she said one of Babylon Bee’s administrators had been asked to provide identity verification. If it turns out that the operators of the page are portraying themselves in a false light, the page will be removed, the spokesperson said, pointing to the Strategies account of integrity and genuine identity.
Facebook also addresses “fake news” in its community standards, saying there is “a fine line between fake news and satire or opinion.”
“For these reasons, we are not removing fake news from Facebook, but we are significantly reducing its dissemination by posting it lower in the News Feed,” said the policy rationale said. The company also says it is working to curb the spread of fake news by “disrupting economic incentives for people, pages and domains that spread disinformation.”
As for Ford, the creator of The Babylon Bee who still owns a financial stake in the company, he now runs a website called Notthebee.com who, despite his previous denunciations of Facebook and Google, has a Facebook page.
And Dillon says he wants to stay on the platform, as well as Twitter and Instagram.
“People ask me all the time why we stay on these platforms. And the reason is that even the Supreme Court recently recognized that these platforms are the modern public square. This is where most of the talk in the modern world takes place, ”he said. “We will continue to fight to stay on these platforms because we believe we have the right to be there.”